In Order to Be a Great Leader, Science Says You Need This

Katie Sweeney
PHOTO:

Sebastian Kim for Vogue

To be an effective and inspirational leader, an individual must be a high-functioning and organized problem solver who executes plans and makes the correct decisions. Now, Harvard Business Review is saying that to be a good leader, it’s also crucial to get enough sleep, which is interesting because 43 percent of business leaders say that they do not get enough sleep at least four nights a week.

The Harvard Business Review explains it like this: The front of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, is responsible for “executive functioning, including all the higher-order cognitive processes, such as problem solving, reasoning, organizing, inhibition, planning, and executing plans. These processes help us get things done.” Although other parts of the brain can cope with a lack of sleep, neuroscientists know that the prefrontal cortex can not. Sleep deprivation causes basic motor and visual skills to deteriorate, and after roughly 17 to 19 hours of wakefulness (if you get up at 6 a.m., that's 11 p.m.), one’s performance level is equivalent to that of a person with a blood alcohol level of .05 percent.

The four behavioral traits that are most commonly associated with executive teams—operating with strong orientation to results, solving problems effectively, seeking out different perspectives, and supporting others—require sleep. There’s also a direct relationship between sleep and stress: A lack of sleep can cause one to be more stressed and experience reduced engagement at work. Moral of the story: If you want to be a truly great leader, you’ve got to make sleep a priority.

Learn more about the traits associated with leaders by reading The Five Levels of Leadership.

Do you think you get enough sleep?

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